Hidden Gem Colleges in the Far West US | 2023 Rankings

Far West Hidden Gems Colleges 2023 badge.From sunny beaches to snowy mountains to rainy coasts, there is perhaps no region in the US more diverse than the Far West. In addition to a variety of landscapes, the Far West is home to a variety of schools. With all there is to see, you don’t want to miss out on these incredible hidden gems colleges in the Far West!

To qualify as a Hidden Gem, a school must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications per year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Offer 5 or more unique majors
  • Have a 10% acceptance rate or higher

We’re considering the following states as part of the far west: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

*Note: We feature the top 3 Hidden Gems per state, however not all states had 3 schools that met all of our criteria, and so may only feature one or two.

Hidden Gems in the Far West 2023


Known as UAF or simply “Alaska,” is a flagship, land grant, space grant, and sea grant school. Blue and gold are the official colors of UAF and the mascot is Nanook, a mighty polar bear of Inuit legend. Ice hockey, skiing, track, and volleyball are popular sports for the Nanooks. There is an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Fairbanks, AK
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,813
The smallest in the trio of University of Alaska schools, Southeast is located in the state capital. Southeast is further divided into three campuses, Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. Southeast’s mascot is Spike the Humpback Whale. Though Southeast offers up to the master’s degree, 87% of students study at the undergraduate level.
Location Juneau, AK
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,070
Alaska Pacific University, also known as APU, was originally called the Alaska Methodist University when established in 1957. It is right next to the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Native Medical Center. APU offers up to the doctor’s degree level of education. 98% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs.
Location Anchorage, AK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 493
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Harvey Mudd College has a little under 900 students and offers programs only related to Science and Engineering. It has an 18% acceptance rate, 92% first year retention rate, and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Part of the Claremont Colleges, their colors are black and gold. The men’s teams are known as the Stags and the women are known as the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 854
A member of the Claremont Colleges, Scripps College is a private liberal arts women’s school. It’s known for its historic campus as well as its extensive curriculum. The campus is currently listed in the National Register of Historic Places and often gets mentioned for its beautiful grounds. Biology, Psychology, and Political Science and Government are common majors.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 958
Pitzer College accepts only 17% of applicants, making it a highly selective school. A majority of these students come from California, Washington, and Oregon. It is one of the Claremont Colleges and focuses on Media Studies, Behavioral Studies, Social Sciences, and International Programs. Environmental Science, Psychology, and Economics are popular majors.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 922


Chaminade University of Honolulu accepts just under 90% of applicants. With an 81% first year retention rate, the school has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Top majors include Registered Nursing, Criminal Justice, and Psychology. Total, the school offers 23 fields of study to undergraduates.
Location Honolulu, HI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,208
A liberal arts school, UH Hilo’s most popular majors include Registered Nursing, Pharmacy, and Psychology. Red and black are the colors of the Vulcans, who compete in the PacWest conference. Students come from all over the country to study at UH Hilo, though 67% are from the state of Hawaii itself.
Location Hilo, HI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,165
This private university was founded relatively recently in 1955 and is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The school’s motto is, “enter to learn, go forth to serve.” 100% of the student population consists of undergraduate students. Some of the most popular majors at the university include Accounting, Hospitality Administration and Management, and Psychology.
Location Laie, HI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,180


Located at the foot of Mount Scorpion Mountain, Nevada State College practices sustainable principles on their 511 acre campus. While NSC is a very ethnically diverse school, 99% of students call Nevada their home state. The most popular major by far is Registered Nursing. 95% of students receive grant aid.
Location Henderson, NV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,289


Willamette University is the oldest university found in the western part of the United States. It was founded in 1842 as the Oregon Institute. Today, the school accepts about 80% of students. There are about 330 athletes known as the Bearcats. Wearing cardinal and old gold, they participate in 20 different varsity sports in the Northwest Conference.
Location Salem, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,866
Pacific University has four total campuses, though the main one is in Forest Grove, OR. Offering up to a doctor’s degree, Pacific University has a student body that is 54% graduate students and 46% undergraduates. Biology is the most popular major. Only 41% of incoming students are from Oregon, with many coming from neighboring states California and Washington.
Location Forest Grove, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,808
George Fox University, also known as GFU, is a private Christian university. With an 83% first year retention rate, the school also has a 13 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. Student athletes at GFU are known as the Bruins and are members of the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference. Their colors are navy blue and gold.
Location Newberg, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,106


Sharing a campus with Cascadia College, University of Washington's Bothell Campus is actually the largest campus branch in the state. Over 97% of students are from Washington. UW Bothell has over 30 undergraduate degrees, 15 Master’s degrees, study abroad programs, and weekend/evening college classes available.
Location Bothell, WA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,304
Pacific Lutheran University has a noble motto - “Educating for Lives of Thoughtful Inquiry, Service, Leadership, and Care.” Business, Nursing, Kinesiology, Psychology, and Biology are the top five most popular majors. Notable alumni include Rosanna Pansino, Marissa Meyer, and Michael Peterson.
Location Tacoma, WA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,907
Whitworth University’s motto is “Education of Mind and Heart.” It should come as no surprise, then, that the top three majors are Biology, Psychology, and Elementary Education. 81% of students return after freshman year and 77% are expected to graduate within 6 years. Whitworth’s colors are crimson and black.
Location Spokane, WA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,756

*Note: While Nevada did not have any colleges that qualified under our Hidden Gems criteria this year, we included the closest match. In the spirit of Hidden Gems, we feel it’s important to include schools from all states, so students and families know about the opportunities around them.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!


Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

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